iPhone Tracking: Much Ado about Nothing?

If you are into technology or not you couldn’t have missed the out cry over the story that the iPhone is capturing your location data and storing it on both the phone and the computer it is sync to. There have been many articles written on the subject, many which were written to clearly capture the reader attention, like Your iPhone is tracking Your Every Move or a the Huffington Post article The Scary Implications of the iPhone Tracking Everywhere You Go or Got an iPhone or 3G iPad? Apple is recording your moves. Although all of these are true, they are over simplified. The fact that the iPhone and 3G iPad was capturing and storing location information on both the gadget and the computer it is sync to has been known for awhile by the forensic community, Alex LeVinson of Katana Forensic published a paper on the subject for the Hawaii International Conference for System Science 44 in 2010 A book was published in December 2010, called  iOS Forensic Analysis for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch which has a whole chapter on the issue. The information is not hidden, although the file has moved over the various versions. (Just because something is not announce doesn’t mean it is hidden.) Finally, there is no indication that Apple is pulling any location information into their own server, other then what is permitted under the User Agreement

According to most sources the information that is being collected is the triangulation of the location of the two nearest cell towers plus the direction the phone is headed. It can tell you where the person generally was; ie what city they are in, but not a [specific location][7]. There are indications that many Android phones collect the same information if the location service is turned on.

There are still are still several questions that need to be answer. First why is the information being collected and why is the file kept so long in the backup folder. The second problem is the information is unencrypted, which means anyone who has access to the phone including the police can get to the information. Which bring up the question of how information that is stored on a cell phone or a tablet falls under the Fourth Amendment. The final answer to this question is still to be determine. These are all important question. However in my opinion the sky is falling cry that came out of much of the blogging and social media community was over done and misleading.